St. Patrick’s Day is famous for everything Irish—shamrocks, parades, the color green, leprechauns, and the like. Here’s a look at how some St. Patrick’s Day traditions and symbols came to be:

The shamrock

Called the “seamroy” by the Celts, the shamrock was considered a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it represented the spring season’s rebirth. By the 17th century, the shamrock symbolized rising Irish nationalism.

The English started seizing Irish land and passed laws against using the Irish language and practicing Catholicism. As a way of showing their pride in their heritage and displeasure with English rule, many Irish started wearing the shamrock.

The snake

For a long time, it has been recounted that while on his mission in Ireland, St. Patrick stood on top of a hill (now called Croagh Patrick). With a wooden staff on his side, he banished every snake from Ireland.

Ireland never had any snakes. “Banishing snakes” is a metaphor for the elimination of pagan ideology from the island nation and the victory of Christianity. Within just 200 years of St. Patrick arriving in Ireland, the nation was entirely Christianized.

Irish music

Music is a significant part of Irish culture, and therefore, of St. Patrick’s Day, too. Among the Celts, because of their prevalent oral culture, history, religion, and legends were passed on from one generation to another through songs and stories.

After the English conquered Ireland and forbade the Irish from speaking their language, the Irish used music to hold on to their history and heritage and remember crucial events. Because music could stir emotion and motivate people, the English outlawed music. During her rule, Queen Elizabeth decreed that all pipers and artists be arrested and hanged on the spot.

Corned beef

Every year, thousands of Irish Americans meet their loved ones on this holiday and celebrate it by sharing a traditional meal of cabbage and corned beef. While cabbage has been an Irish food for a long time, corned beef started being associated with St. Patrick’s Day at the turn of the century.

Here’s hoping your St. Patrick’s Day 2021 celebrations are memorable!